The Associated Press ran an article this week about school board members who are resigning or considering their resignations after a spate of vicious public reactions during school board meetings this Summer. Angry about Critical Race Theory and mask mandates, many citizens used the public comment time during school board meetings to harangue board members. One comment that jumped off the screen at me was a citizen at a meeting in Arizona who told the board, “It’s my constitutional right to be as mean as I want to you guys.”
When you consider the issues that the angry citizens raised, it is not a jump to think that most of them are conservatives, and most of them would probably call themselves Christians. It is bad enough for a culture when everyday citizens forfeit their virtue and poison the public discourse by mistreating other people. When Christians do it, it is an outright tragedy.
Christians carry the reputation of Christ, his message, and his church in our hands every day. Our words, attitudes, and actions influence people towards the Gospel or away from it. The world either sees an accurate picture of Jesus and his work through us, or they see a distorted version of Jesus, one that is likely to drive them further away from him. Christians must consider this in how we interact with others, even when political issues are at stake.
Of course, one thing we need to do is to define what a Christian is. A Christian is not a person who was born into a Christian family, sings the national anthem, or votes Republican. A Christian is a person who has recognized the depth of their sin and trusted in Jesus Christ and their Lord and Savior. They have experienced a new birth that gave them a new heart and made them a new person. The Christian will desire to grow and remove anything from their lives that does not look like Christ. The fruit of the Spirit will become increasingly evident in their lives, and they will long to obey Jesus’s commands.
For people who follow Jesus, we must understand that the way we speak to people matters and all of our efforts to justify our cruelty fall horribly short. First, wisdom demands that we exercise self-control in our speech. In Proverbs 11:9, Solomon said, “With his mouth, the godless man would destroy his neighbor.” Three verses later, he said, “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense.” These two verses demonstrate that only the foolish, godless man uses his words to insult and demean his neighbor.
In addition, the New Testament adds weight to the imperative of thinking before we speak. In James 3, the apostle said that we bless the Lord with our tongue, but then turn around and use the same tongue to curse those who have been made in his image. He continued, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” In Colossians 4, Paul commanded believers to let their speech be seasoned with grace. We cannot show grace to people when we are condemning them as fools and treating them with contempt.
Those engaged in hateful political speech like to come up with reasons why it is okay. I’ve heard many people counter that if the Founders had been concerned about civic virtue, we never would have had the Revolution. That sounds good on the surface, but it is comparing apples and oranges. The very fact that people are speaking to their elected representatives makes this wholly unlike the American Revolution. The Founders had no elected representatives they could appeal to. The folks angry with their school boards do.
How then should Christians handle our anger about political issues, especially when these issues affect the wellbeing of our families and communities? First, we should exercise self-control. We will not accomplish anything of lasting value by flying off the handle. Second, we should speak with our representatives. We need to go to school board meetings and city council meetings to speak out on issues. However, we must recognize that our speech should aim to be reasoned and persuasive. Volume may demonstrate passion, but it rarely does more than put people on the defensive. Speak to change minds, not to vent anger and frustration.
We need to pray as well. I am convinced that we do not spend the time praying for our leaders that we should. They face a multitude of difficult decisions that we could not imagine. As 1 Timothy 2 commands, we should lift them up to the Lord. Pray for them to have wisdom. Pray for them to make good decisions. Pray for them to care about both personal liberty and the public good.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”